x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

The little genie is aiming to make home nation's wish come true

Few of Egypt's football-crazy supporters know Mustafa Mahmoud Mohammed Selim by his real name. To most he is simply "Afroto", a word used for little genies in this part of the world.

ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT // Few of Egypt's football-crazy supporters know Mustafa Mahmoud Mohammed Selim by his real name. To most he is simply "Afroto", a word used for little genies in this part of the world. He is not sure when he got tagged with this title, but his performance in the opening game of the Under 20 World Cup shows the nickname is well earned as he helped Egypt defeat Trinidad and Tobago 4-1.

As the hosts struggled to break down Trinidad and Tobago's resilient defence, the bald-headed No 11 breached it with a magical solo run in the 27th minute for the opener as he beat two defenders before sliding the ball home. "I'm very happy with my goal and the confidence the coaching staff of Miroslav Soukup and Hany Ramzy have shown in me," he told fifa.com. "I thank them for including me and can promise more of the same."

Soukup had not included Afroto in his squad for the African Youth Championship at the start of this year, but brought him back after realising Afroto's, 20, match-winning abilities. Given his chance, the Cairo native is hoping the World Cup will open the doors to major European leagues for him, or at least earn a regular start at his club, Al Ahly. "It's sad that most of the players in our national team are not getting regular first-team football at their clubs," he said. "I hope this tournament will open the door to me playing in Europe.

"I long for the day I can take this challenge and I firmly believe I'd be successful if I moved there." For now, though, he is solely focused on Egypt's next game against Paraguay tonight. "We want to challenge for the trophy and we'll never have a better chance to achieve that goal," he said. "However, for now we need to focus solely on Paraguay. They're well organised, very strong and have bags of experience, so they deserve the utmost respect. It'll be far from easy against them."

In other games tonight, Italy will be hoping for three points against Trinidad after being held to a goalless draw by Paraguay, and Nigeria will face Spain. arizvi@thenational.ae